What’s a Sidekick? What’s His Job?

“What’s a Sidekick? What’s His Job?” by Joan Y. Edwards

Wikipedia says a sidekick is a close companion of the same sex, who is generally regarded as subordinate to the one he accompanies. A villain’s supporters are not called, sidekicks. They are usually called henchmen, minions, or lackeys.

What do I think are traits of a sidekick?

A sidekick is loyal and has predictable behavior. He’ll stick with the protagonist through thick and thin. A sidekick will speak up when he believes the hero is making a mistake. A sidekick acts, even if he’s afraid. He would even die for the protagonist. You can depend on him in the story. He is smart in different areas than the hero.

Publicity photo from the television program Th...
Publicity photo from the television program The Andy Griffith Show. Pictured are Don Knotts (Barney Fife) and Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He has a skill or knowledge that the protagonist needs to reach his goal, but doesn’t have himself. If the hero is optimistic, the sidekick might be pessimistic, and have common sense to offset the hasty decisions of the hero. He has the same or similar morals and beliefs as hero. Neither he nor the hero will kill unless he is forced to do so in self-defense.

Paul Young puts sidekicks in simple categories that make sense to me in his article, “Return of the Sidekick…The Time Is Now.” I added a sidekick and how he worked to fit the job.

  1. The Assistant Chewbacca was Hans Solo’s assistant. Hans Solo had saved his life, so he would do anything to repay him for this.  Chewbacca assists in transporting prisoners, fixing the spaceship, and is asked to rescue everyone for Hans in Star Wars.
  2. The Best Friend In Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger are both best friend sidekicks. Usually, sidekicks are the same sex. Hermione is the voice of reason that Harry and Ron listen to. She has advanced magical skills. Ron and Hermione get married in the last book. Ron Weasley is not totally loyal since he leaves for awhile, but he comes back.  Their relationship shows the power of three.
  3. The Brains Dr. Spock was the brains behind many of the plots in Star Trek. He did the thinking that saved Captain Kirk who got angry and thought later.
  4. The Brawn Fonzie, friend to Richie Cunningham in Happy Days, educates him in street smart ways. He is smarter and stronger than Richie Cunningham.
  5. Comedy Relief – Barney Fife is Andy Griffith’s sidekick. He is very funny. Andy has to get Barney out of trouble. Andy knew exactly what Barney would do in certain situations. Barney was very predictable.

Well-known and loved fictional book and movie sidekicks:

Main Character:  Sidekick
Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables):  Dianna Barry
Batman:  Robin
Captain Kirk (Star Trek):Dr. Spock
Charlie Bucket (Charlie & the Chocolate Factory):  Grandpa Joe
Don Quixote:  Sancho Panza
Green Hornet:  Kato
Hans Solo (Star Wars):  Chewbacca
Henry Huggins:  Ribsy
King Arthur:  Merlin
Lone Ranger: Tonto –
Peter Pan:  Tinkerbell
Pippy Longstocking:  Mr. Nilsson, the monkey
Sherlock Holmes:  Doctor Watson – always gave the critical piece of evidence Sherlock needed
Shrek:  Donkey
Winnie the Pooh:  Piglet

Captain Gallant:  Fuzzy Knight (Playing himself)
Gene Autry:  Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette)
Roy Rogers:  Cookie (Andy Devine)

Television Shows
Andy Griffith:   Barney Fife – comedy and created more problems than he helped solve)
Bullwinkle J. Moose:  Rocket J. Squirrel – brains and common sense
Fred Flintstone:  Barney Rubble – common Sense, calming influence
Inspector Gadget:   Penny – brains
Johnny Carson:  Ed McMahon – straight guy and friend to Johnny Carson; he laughed with Johnny
Lucille Ball (I Love Lucy):  Ethel Mertz – agreed with whatever Lucy said; helped her no matter what
Richie Cunningham (Happy Days): The Fonz, Arthur Herbert Fonzerelli

Resources (I invite you to visit at least 3 of these links. They contain fascinating information about the sidekicks you may know and love.)

  1. Christopher Bahn, Tasha Robinson, and Scott Tobias.  “13 Sidekicks Who Are Cooler Than Their Heroes:” http://www.avclub.com/articles/inventory-13-sidekicks-who-are-cooler-than-their-h,1775/
  2. Cody Gilley.  “What Makes a Good Sidekick:” http://www.gameinformer.com/blogs/members/b/codygilleymcnugget_blog/archive/2010/11/05/whst-makes-a-good-sidekick.aspx
  3. Dark Lord Plotter LP’s Fanfiction Site. “What Makes a Good Sidekick:” http://forums.darklordpotter.net/showthread.php?t=9090
  4. Erik Deckers.  “Attack of the Disney Sidekicks:” http://www.aladdincentral.org/library/viewstory.php?sid=6
  5. Little Willow.  “Sassy Sidekicks of Children’s Literature:” http://slayground.livejournal.com/129939.html
  6. Los Angeles Hero Complex. “The Top Ten Sidekicks of All Time:” http://herocomplex.latimes.com/2010/10/10/101010-the-top-10-sidekicks-of-all-time/
  7. Rick Rockhill. “Seven Famous Sidekicks That Matter:” http://rickrockhill.blogspot.com/2009/03/saturday-seven-famous-sidekicks-that.html
  8. Rob McLaughlin. “Film and Television’s Trustiest Sidekicks:” http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/575964/film_and_televisions_trustiest_sidekicks.html
  9. Top Tenz.net. “Top Ten Sidekicks:” http://www.toptenz.net/top-ten-sidekicks.php

I hope you enjoyed reading about these sidekicks. Perhaps you’ll create a sidekick for your next book. They are fun.  They help us understand the hero. They keep the hero grounded. I give special thanks to Scarlet Helms, my teacher’s assistant when I taught Kindergarten from 1993-1998, and all my family and friends who unselfishly surround me with their love and support.

I hope that you have a sidekick in real life to believe in you and support you in all of your endeavors.

Please leave the names of your favorite character and sidekick. I’d love to hear about them.

Copyright2012 © Joan Y. Edwards

14 thoughts on “What’s a Sidekick? What’s His Job?”

  1. I know this is not what you meant, but my favourite sidekick is my dog Farley. He is at my feet no matter where I am – when I write, run, kayak. You name it and my loyal pal is with me.

    1. I love it that you have a loyal sidekick – your dog, Farley. I believe when you have a loyal sidekick in real life, you are more able to create a great one for your stories. Thanks for writing, Kristina. Hm. Maybe you can write about you and Farley in a children’s book or adult fiction. It sounds good to me.

      Be grateful for your Positive Spin on Life
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  2. I know this is not what you meant, by Farley, my dog, is may favourite sidekick. He is at my feet, not matter where I am. When I write, read, kayak, run, you name it and he is there. He’s my loyal pal but not always predictable.

    The Assistant: He adds an extra 45 pounds to the kayak, thereby assisting me in getting fitter.

    The Best Friend: When I ask him if my writing is any good, he always wags his tail.

    The Brains: He knows when it’s time to eat, and reminds of it when I get buried in my writing and forget the time.

    The Brawn: He protects me from wildlife and unfriendly dogs.

    Comedy Relief: It’s 3 am, his water bowl is empty and he slams the stainless steel bowl against the wall to wake me up. I get up and he wags is tail like nothing is wrong. I’m sure he thought it was funny.

    1. Dear Kristina,
      You are so much fun. I love how you let us know that your dog provides all the services required of a sidekick and more. Your note was very funny. Thank you for filling my day with joy.

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  3. Joan – You made me think of many sidekicks I’ve had through the years, which put a smile on my face. I consider you one of my sidekicks and I treasure you. Happy Mother’s Day!
    Love Ya,

    1. Dear Claire,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad I made you think of the many sidekicks you’ve had through the years. It does make you smiles to remember all of them, doesn’t it? Thanks for considering me one of your sidekicks and for treasuring me. I love being your sidekick. Happy Mother’s Day to you, too.

      Enjoy your day!
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  4. Joan,
    I enjoyed this one. I was hoping I could add Lucy and Ethel from “I Love Lucy.” You’re so thorough, they were already listed.

    My brother cried when he had to go to school. Why? He didn’t want to miss “I Love Lucy.” As good as Lucy was, her sidekick made her better. A good point to keep in mind when writing.

    Linda A.

    1. Dear Linda,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you enjoyed this one. The sidekicks do make the heroes look better. The Andy Griffith show without Barney was blazé. He created fun situations for all to enjoy. It also showed us how compassionate Andy was for forgiving him and making Barney King of the Hill in different situations.

      I laugh and laugh at Lucy and Ethel. They get into some awful messes together and come out okay.I’m glad you liked them, too.

      Celebrate you today.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  5. I always saw the role of the sidekick was to “complete” the protagonist. Let’s say you have a hero going through his adventure, trying to solve a crime, or resolve some other conflict. The sidekick gives the hero someone to talk to, to bounce ideas off of, or to simply use as a contrast to show off heroics. An individual is boring. How do we know what’s going through his mind if he can’t express himself to someone else? All of Sherlock Holmes’s intelligence would be impossible to express to an audience unless he could show off to Dr. Watson. Batman is merely a silent vigilante hiding in the shadows internalizing his trauma and crime fighting without Robin. The Lone Ranger is just a masked man on a horse without Tonto. Often the sidekick provides other skills that the protagonist is missing, and as a team they compliment each other.

    1. Dear Jamie,
      Thanks for writing. I like the information you added about sidekicks. You’re right, the sidekick does give the protagonist someone to talk to and share ideas with. Like you say, Sherlock Holmes shows off to Dr. Watson. Dr. Watson in return gives him the clue that solves the mysteries. The Lone Ranger would be just a masked man without Tonto. In the right combination, the stories that have been written using sidekicks wouldn’t be the same without the sidekicks. It would be like having salad without our favorite dressing or in my case, a hamburger without ketchup. I hope you’ll write again.

      Do something fun to celebrate you today!

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  6. What a wonderful, informative, and fun article! I love a good sidekick – Barney Fife was one of my favorites, and Chester (from Gunsmoke)! I laugh at all of them though! Ethel – what would Lucy have done without her? I think that Fred was just as much as sidekick to Ricky!
    Anyway, I think every great story should have one! Thanks for the reminder! Got to find a sidekick! Quick!
    God bless you just because you are you!

    1. Dear Ann,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you think this was informative and fun. Barney Fife can make me laugh until I cry. You’re right about Fred being a sidekick for Ricky. You’re welcome. Thanks for asking God to bless me. May God bless you abundantly!

      Keep Putting a Positive Spin on Your Life
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

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